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How Much Money Has Rick Santorum Cost Mitt Romney?

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By delaying his withdrawal from the GOP primary race, Santorum has cost Romney millions that could have gone toward the general election.

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The Republican presidential primary race ended months later than most would have expected back last year, but with Rick Santorum announcing the suspension of his campaign yesterday, we can finally declare Mitt Romney to be the official Republican presidential nominee.

Going into the first Iowa caucus back in January, Romney probably did not expect that Santorum would emerge as his strongest challenger. Then Santorum surprised everyone and rode on a wave of evangelical support to come within eight votes of toppling Romney in the Iowa caucus. (The Iowa GOP later announced that actually, Santorum was the winner by 34 votes.)

Romney might have been a little put out then, but a month later on February 8, he was dealt a big blow to his campaign as Santorum won in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri. That day's message was clear: Santorum was a credible threat to Romney's long-held ambitions, and he needed to spend big to ensure victory.

And spend big, Romney did. Up until April 1, Romney had spent a total of $53 million on television ad buys, according to the New York Daily News. The pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, splashed out an additional $40 million on TV ads.

Meanwhile, Santorum has spent a relatively paltry $9 million in total, with his super PAC, the Red, White And Blue Fund, adding another $7.5 million.

So that's a whopping $93 million for Romney ads versus $16.5 million for Santorum. Hunter College political science professor Jamie Chandler told the Daily News that since the Iowa caucus, Romney has spent $37 for each vote he received, versus Santorum's economical $9 per vote.

Much of Romney's campaign spending has been part of the effort to fend off Santorum (and also Gingrich, in the earlier stages of the primary contest), which means he has already spent dollars that could be been used to attack President Obama.

How much money did Romney waste in his efforts to drive Santorum out of the race? It's hard to quantify exactly, of course, because we do not know if anti-Romney voters would have coalesced around another candidate such as Gingrich. But certainly the number is in the tens of millions.

It's also hard to decide when it would have been the right time for Santorum to quit -- he won the Louisiana primary as late as March 24. But it seems like Santorum perhaps should have dropped out after the Illinois primary, at least in the eyes for those seeking to oust Obama.

As Nate Silver of the New York Times argued, in order for Santorum to overtake Romney in the delegate count, he would have to win Illinois and other states even less demographically favorable for him. Silver called Illinois a "must-win" state for Santorum.

Thus, when Romney convincingly trounced Santorum in the The Prairie State on March 20, the latter perhaps should have taken it as a cue to step down.

Romney would have saved roughly $6.2 million if Santorum had stepped down. There was the $3.2 million Romney and his super PAC spent on ads for the April 3 Wisconsin primary. There was also the $1.9 million sunk into Pennsylvania before Santorum quit. So that's at least $5.1 million that Romney could have used to attack Obama had Santorum quit after the Illinois primary, not to mention the millions that he could also have saved earlier if Santorum had not been such a strong challenger.

Of course, Romney could also be grateful that Santorum gave up before the Pennsylvania primary. He had planned to spend another $1.1 million on media buys to secure victory there, and would have continued draining his campaign funds in further contests down the road.

Romney will probably need every single last dollar of that $1.1 million to battle Obama in the general election. The president has already amassed a war chest of over $94.2 million, compared to Romney's $7.3 million in the bank.

Romney does have an advantage over Obama in terms of super PAC fundraising. The Obama-supporting Priorities USA Action reportedly raised $2 million in February, whereas the super PACs supporting Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, and Ron Paul -- which will presumably join forces to aid Romney now -- amassed more than $15 million.

Additionally, Romney will most likely get media spending help from conservative groups like the US Chamber of Commerce, Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, and the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity.

Meanwhile, Santorum will have to decide what he wants to do with his $1.2 million cash on hand now that he has stepped down. Perhaps he could consider donating it to Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, otherwise known as Stephen Colbert's super PAC.

Twitter: @sterlingwong
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